True Bluegrass Fiddle & Banjo- reviews

Over at the Lonesome Road Review, Aaron has posted my review of two new Rebel Records bluegrass compilations- one is focused on banjo tunes, the other fiddle.

Thanks for visiting. Donald

“True Bluegrass Banjo” and “True Bluegrass Fiddle” by Various Artists on Rebel Records

Various Artists
True Bluegrass Banjo
True Bluegrass Fiddle
Rebel Records

3.5 stars (out of 5)

By Donald Teplyske

I’ve long fantasized about hanging out at the Rebel Records headquarters and being given full access to the label’s vaults and filing cabinets. I envision spending several days wandering the aisles, perusing shelves of archived material, listening to snatches of studio chatter captured between takes and reviewing rare documents itemizing the sessions of the masters of bluegrass.

Sometime during my stay, Mr. Freeman would recognize my passion and insight into this music and ask me to come on staff, perhaps to facilitate the development and enhancement of their vast catalog of recordings into a series of reissues and compilations. I would be put in charge of refreshing releases from the vast history of Rebel Records, assembling the ‘just right’ collection of standards and forgotten gems into premium releases that advance the music for the next generation of listeners, housed in elaborate packaging taking advantage of the array of photos from during historical recording dates while ignoring the financial constraints of the current music market.

But, like most of my other fantasies, this one isn’t likely to come to fruition. I need to accept my lot and simply enjoy Rebel compilations as assembled by others. This latest pairing includes a total of 36 banjo- and fiddle-focused instrumentals spread across two individually available and budget-priced albums.

It is hard to muster any type of negative argument toward these sets. True, the packaging and notes are (unfortunately) kept to a minimum with little more than song title and performer information provided. No details about the source of each track or who is playing what are included. Still, for sets selling at $9 and less, the lack of this information is an acceptable compromise.

What matters then is the music, and the stuff included herein is tough to beat: Sonny Osborne laying down “Banjo Boy Chimes;” Kenny Baker and Joe Greene fiddlin’ “High Country;” J.D. Crowe delivering “Black Jack;” Glen Duncan exploring “Williamsburg;” Ralph Stanley and the “Clinch Mountain Backstep.” Classic stuff.

You have the fiddling standards- “Leather Britches” (Curly Ray Cline), “St. Anne’s Reel” (Johnny Warren), “Scotland” (Bobby Hicks), and “Dusty Miller” (Joe Greene)- as well as some lesser known tunes. Art Stamper, James Price, Chubby Anthony and others have tracks included on True Bluegrass Fiddle.

The companion banjo disc is similarly chock-a-block with priceless and memorable takes: Bill Emerson’s “Sweet Dixie,” Alan Munde’s “Cotton Patch Rag,” “Knee Deep in the Bluegrass” from Terry Baucom, and Sammy Shelor’s “Daddy’s Dream.” Also represented are Jimmy Arnold, Don Reno & Eddie Adcock, and Ned Luberecki as well as additional tunes from Stanley, Crowe, and Emerson.

As introductions to bluegrass banjo and fiddle-—and what Rebel has offered over the years in this regard—these two sets provide quality music at an attractive price.

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